Inside the Gears of Google

So, what did Google just do with its introduction of “Gears?”

Setup its suite of office applications to go offline. Oh, and everyone else’s too.

Zojo? ConceptShare? Zimbra?

All will be able to go offline soon if their developers adopt Google’s Gears.

UPDATE: David Berlind at ZDNet has the best insight I’ve seen posted so far about Gears and has a podcast/interview with Linus Upson, director of engineering at Google

Right now I’m using my computer while not connected to the Internet. I’m typing in Windows Live Writer’s window and I’m surfing Google Reader while unconnected.

Some things that work better? Google Reader doesn’t hesitate or “stutter” every 20 posts like it does when it’s online. Some things that don’t work as well? It doesn’t download images so posts have grey boxes in them.

I just reconnected and it instantly shared all the items I had maked as shared.

Nice implementation and works simply and easily. I’ll definitely be using this on my next plane ride.

I wish it ALWAYS worked in offline mode, though. Why do I need to click a button to resubscribe? The Gears team told me this is a choice the developer will need to make.

Oh, while offline, if I reloaded my browser, or accidentally closed it, it goes back to my Reader automatically. That’s nice.

Look for more offline applications to come from Google soon. They don’t have any to announce yet, but said they are working on their Docs and Spreadsheets.

What really just happened? The Web got a little further away from Microsoft’s platforms and Google revealed a little more about its platform dreams.

What do you think? Are you looking forward to developing an app using Gears?

59 thoughts on “Inside the Gears of Google

  1. To add to Nick Bradbury’s comment about creating link blogs with FeedDemon…

    You can create a link blog with almost any NewsGator client. I’ve added support for this in Inbox, the NewsGator Toolbar and in NewsGator Desktop. NewsGator Online can also do this.

    It’s all done using NewsGator Clippings – I wrote a post about it on my blog a few months ago:

    http://blogs.newsgator.com/inbox/2007/03/clippings_anoth.html

    Since NewsGator Online is the backbone for all these clients, things you clip in one sync with the others so you can use any or all to build a link blog.

  2. Robert, to answer you questions about FeedDemon, yes, it can be used to create a link blog. There’s a screencast on my blog which demonstrates this feature – see http://nick.typepad.com/blog/2007/05/feeddemon_25_sh.html

    It also has a “river of news” view, complete with single-key navigation. And, of course, it synchronizes with NewsGator Online, so you can run it on multiple computers and have your feeds (including unread states) synched between them.

  3. Robert, to answer you questions about FeedDemon, yes, it can be used to create a link blog. There’s a screencast on my blog which demonstrates this feature – see http://nick.typepad.com/blog/2007/05/feeddemon_25_sh.html

    It also has a “river of news” view, complete with single-key navigation. And, of course, it synchronizes with NewsGator Online, so you can run it on multiple computers and have your feeds (including unread states) synched between them.

  4. I would be more excited about gears if I could get it to work – now, every time I try to open Google Reader in IE 6, the browser crashes. And the only add in I’m running is…the Google toolbar!

    Offline browser use would probably be really cool…if I can use it in the browser I want to use. I guess I just need to want to use Firefox…

  5. I would be more excited about gears if I could get it to work – now, every time I try to open Google Reader in IE 6, the browser crashes. And the only add in I’m running is…the Google toolbar!

    Offline browser use would probably be really cool…if I can use it in the browser I want to use. I guess I just need to want to use Firefox…

  6. @19 “Jeffro: because we want our feeds on our plane but in our browser.”

    We? We, who? We, you? I already have the capability of offline feeds with Outlook 2007 or any number of client tools. Like they say,the devil is in the details. Jeffro raises some good questions. What is the “cost” for having the stuff off line?

  7. @19 “Jeffro: because we want our feeds on our plane but in our browser.”

    We? We, who? We, you? I already have the capability of offline feeds with Outlook 2007 or any number of client tools. Like they say,the devil is in the details. Jeffro raises some good questions. What is the “cost” for having the stuff off line?

  8. Alejandro: I used to read feeds in airplanes or at the beach where there isn’t connectivity. Now I can again.

    Oh I completely agree with the value of this. It’s one reason why I’ve used Safari’s feed reader, because it caches them, allowing me to read them offline. I’m kind of surprised it took Google this long to get around to this, but I like the way they did it.

  9. Alejandro: I used to read feeds in airplanes or at the beach where there isn’t connectivity. Now I can again.

    Oh I completely agree with the value of this. It’s one reason why I’ve used Safari’s feed reader, because it caches them, allowing me to read them offline. I’m kind of surprised it took Google this long to get around to this, but I like the way they did it.

  10. I’m still not quite sold on Docs & Spreadsheets (I prefer the additional functionality of Word, especially around Sections and larger document management) – but if Gmail, Contacts and Calendar have offline persistence thanks to Gears then that would seal the fate of Outlook for me.
    Just need GooSync to close the mobile loop and I’m in productivity nirvana. :)

  11. I’m still not quite sold on Docs & Spreadsheets (I prefer the additional functionality of Word, especially around Sections and larger document management) – but if Gmail, Contacts and Calendar have offline persistence thanks to Gears then that would seal the fate of Outlook for me.
    Just need GooSync to close the mobile loop and I’m in productivity nirvana. :)

  12. Robert: if it solves a problem for you (disconnected RSS reader) and the browser is the best way to consume that, fair enough.

    That’s also a rather specific application scenario, not quite like a spreadsheet or document editor or such. I’ll be interested to see an offline doc & spreadsheet app from
    google that doesn’t consume as much ram as open office or even ms office.

    As a web developer, i don’t see the gears library opening up such a tremendous technical advantage to me to think i’ve got microsoft in the cross-hairs.

  13. Robert: if it solves a problem for you (disconnected RSS reader) and the browser is the best way to consume that, fair enough.

    That’s also a rather specific application scenario, not quite like a spreadsheet or document editor or such. I’ll be interested to see an offline doc & spreadsheet app from
    google that doesn’t consume as much ram as open office or even ms office.

    As a web developer, i don’t see the gears library opening up such a tremendous technical advantage to me to think i’ve got microsoft in the cross-hairs.

  14. Seshadri: I think it’s a desktop vs. Web Apps thing right now but that in the future the two will compete on more of a platform vs. platform basis.

    Jeffro: because we want our feeds on our plane but in our browser.

  15. Seshadri: I think it’s a desktop vs. Web Apps thing right now but that in the future the two will compete on more of a platform vs. platform basis.

    Jeffro: because we want our feeds on our plane but in our browser.

  16. Why on earth is everyone so excited about using a browser in an offline mode as a generic app container? This idea is clever but tired.

    Browsers suck as efficient memory managers and more and more javascript libraries will suck system resources.

    I remember when the browser was referred to as a “thin client”. This will only serve as more pie in the buffet line for my browser.

  17. Why on earth is everyone so excited about using a browser in an offline mode as a generic app container? This idea is clever but tired.

    Browsers suck as efficient memory managers and more and more javascript libraries will suck system resources.

    I remember when the browser was referred to as a “thin client”. This will only serve as more pie in the buffet line for my browser.

  18. Robert – you saying it’s really platforms Vs platforms and not web Vs desktop ?

    I still think Microsoft would prefer a platform Vs platform fight over desktop Vs web apps.

  19. Robert – you saying it’s really platforms Vs platforms and not web Vs desktop ?

    I still think Microsoft would prefer a platform Vs platform fight over desktop Vs web apps.

  20. @#13

    Only this is a level playing field again with Microsoft (if they choose to be) just one of the players. Of course MS has its own equivalent thinking with web based hooks into Office and Windows that are undocumented for anyone else’s use. Every day now I talk to someone new who finally “gets it!” when it comes to lock-in. Its a lesson IT people had to learn in the 60s, and apparently they did a poor job of teaching the people who followed them (clue: sometimes the old farts are worth paying attention to). As the Financial Time put it:

    –quote–
    “Of additional concern to Microsoft will be Google’s decision to “open source” its technology. Google hopes Gears will move the industry towards a single standard for offline capabilities, potentially enabling thousands of applications to compete with Microsoft software.

    “Microsoft is either going to have to support this or do something like it,” says David Mitchell Smith, analyst with the Gartner research firm.”
    – endquote –

    So, which will it be? I’m quite sure their first instinct will be to ignore this and hope it goes away. Which is just about my attitude toward Microsoft.

  21. @#13

    Only this is a level playing field again with Microsoft (if they choose to be) just one of the players. Of course MS has its own equivalent thinking with web based hooks into Office and Windows that are undocumented for anyone else’s use. Every day now I talk to someone new who finally “gets it!” when it comes to lock-in. Its a lesson IT people had to learn in the 60s, and apparently they did a poor job of teaching the people who followed them (clue: sometimes the old farts are worth paying attention to). As the Financial Time put it:

    –quote–
    “Of additional concern to Microsoft will be Google’s decision to “open source” its technology. Google hopes Gears will move the industry towards a single standard for offline capabilities, potentially enabling thousands of applications to compete with Microsoft software.

    “Microsoft is either going to have to support this or do something like it,” says David Mitchell Smith, analyst with the Gartner research firm.”
    – endquote –

    So, which will it be? I’m quite sure their first instinct will be to ignore this and hope it goes away. Which is just about my attitude toward Microsoft.

  22. Seshadri: the thing is Microsoft is used to us developing on ITS platforms. No longer. Now we’re on Google’s platforms.

    Guess what’s next? They take the platform in directions that Microsoft might not have wanted to take it.

  23. Seshadri: the thing is Microsoft is used to us developing on ITS platforms. No longer. Now we’re on Google’s platforms.

    Guess what’s next? They take the platform in directions that Microsoft might not have wanted to take it.

  24. “I also have multiple computers and am moving away from applications that load on each. The browser approach is better for me.”

    That hits the nail on the head for me too. Web-based apps are just so much easier to “install” because you just surf to them. I’m excited that I’ll be able to feed-read on planes now too.

  25. “I also have multiple computers and am moving away from applications that load on each. The browser approach is better for me.”

    That hits the nail on the head for me too. Web-based apps are just so much easier to “install” because you just surf to them. I’m excited that I’ll be able to feed-read on planes now too.

  26. Robert – “The Web got a little further away from Microsoft’s platforms”

    You don’t think its exactly the other way around?

    This plugin based offline presence tells me that after a whole lot of posturing and pretension about ‘just-the-cloud’ companies and their apps now will spend more time and energy on providing a ‘skyless cloud’. This is playing right in to Microsoft’s strengths. The more offline you go the more you get in to Microsoft’s territory (Think Outlook).

    The desktop app pig is just getting some glossy plugin lipstick.

  27. Robert – “The Web got a little further away from Microsoft’s platforms”

    You don’t think its exactly the other way around?

    This plugin based offline presence tells me that after a whole lot of posturing and pretension about ‘just-the-cloud’ companies and their apps now will spend more time and energy on providing a ‘skyless cloud’. This is playing right in to Microsoft’s strengths. The more offline you go the more you get in to Microsoft’s territory (Think Outlook).

    The desktop app pig is just getting some glossy plugin lipstick.

  28. FeedDemon rocks, but can I do a link blog with it like I can with Google Reader? Can I read feeds in a river of news way with keyboard commands that make sense? Not sure, cause I haven’t looked at it recently. I also have multiple computers and am moving away from applications that load on each. The browser approach is better for me.

  29. FeedDemon rocks, but can I do a link blog with it like I can with Google Reader? Can I read feeds in a river of news way with keyboard commands that make sense? Not sure, cause I haven’t looked at it recently. I also have multiple computers and am moving away from applications that load on each. The browser approach is better for me.

  30. Theoretically this means ‘sky is the limit’ for web apps. But the world of browser plugins is much more sinister than one would think. It would be interesting how Google ends up handling those.

  31. Theoretically this means ‘sky is the limit’ for web apps. But the world of browser plugins is much more sinister than one would think. It would be interesting how Google ends up handling those.

  32. Seems to me that when you get full on- and off-line access to browser-based apps, you’re right back to competing on featureset, and so far, I have been less than impressed by the capabilities of many web-based applications.

    True, there are real cost differences between, say, Google Docs and MS Word, but MS is going to be able to make a pretty good argument along the lines of “You get what you pay for” there.

  33. Seems to me that when you get full on- and off-line access to browser-based apps, you’re right back to competing on featureset, and so far, I have been less than impressed by the capabilities of many web-based applications.

    True, there are real cost differences between, say, Google Docs and MS Word, but MS is going to be able to make a pretty good argument along the lines of “You get what you pay for” there.

  34. Try FeedDemon, the new 2.5 release will download images and links in posts you haven’t read for reading offline.

    Oh and it syncs with NewsGator Online too :P

  35. Try FeedDemon, the new 2.5 release will download images and links in posts you haven’t read for reading offline.

    Oh and it syncs with NewsGator Online too :P

  36. That’s exactly what I have been thinking of – the company I work for provide BI solutions and other online reporting services for users of our apps. I think this is really going to make providing a fast web interface to large amounts of data a lot easier! (Of course there are a lot more considerations than speed – but it’s a great start!)

  37. That’s exactly what I have been thinking of – the company I work for provide BI solutions and other online reporting services for users of our apps. I think this is really going to make providing a fast web interface to large amounts of data a lot easier! (Of course there are a lot more considerations than speed – but it’s a great start!)

  38. Just wanted to comment about your wanting Reader to work in offline mode: Me, too! We chose an easy model (explicit and manual modal setting of state) for our proof-of-concept Gears adaptation as a demonstration while working out how best to do the better model (automatic, implicit).

    Also, as you mentioned, one of my favorite side effects to this new model is reducing request latency by making local data requests. Let’s get rid of that loading icon! (I know that’s been frustrating for people.)

    We’d really like to update Reader to use the latter sync model, so there’ll be a lot of attention on our part on getting that better approach out there.

  39. Just wanted to comment about your wanting Reader to work in offline mode: Me, too! We chose an easy model (explicit and manual modal setting of state) for our proof-of-concept Gears adaptation as a demonstration while working out how best to do the better model (automatic, implicit).

    Also, as you mentioned, one of my favorite side effects to this new model is reducing request latency by making local data requests. Let’s get rid of that loading icon! (I know that’s been frustrating for people.)

    We’d really like to update Reader to use the latter sync model, so there’ll be a lot of attention on our part on getting that better approach out there.

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